Rabbits need as much space as possible so that they can carry out all their natural behaviours and live a long, healthy, happy life. At a minimum, a pair of rabbits need permanent access to 60 square feet (10ft x 6ft or 3m x 2m) of living space, so a traditional hutch alone is not suitable.
For outdoor rabbits, we recommend a shed and run/aviary set up which should be predator-proof so that your buns can safely enjoy their outside space 24 hours a day. All wire mesh must be galvanised and at least 16 Gauge (16G) to be considered fox-proof. Runs/aviaries that the buns have permanent access to as part of their main set-up must either be on slabs or have wire mesh dug under the grass to prevent predators digging in or buns burrowing out! Runs must be at least 3ft in height to allow for binkying and periscoping.
Our resident bunnies live in a 6×6 shed with adjoining 6×4 aviary that they can access 24/7 via a cat flap. Sheds can also be insulated to help your bunnies keep warm in winter, and cool in summer.
A hutch is only ever suitable if it is used as a shelter as part of a larger set-up, and is never closed. For example, a 6x2x2 hutch attached to an 8 foot long x 6 foot wide x 3 foot high run, or inside a 10×6 aviary. A huge advantage to us humans of walk-in height bunny accommodation (aviaries and sheds) is that it is so much easier to spend time bonding with your rabbits, and makes cleaning out time less back-breaking too!
For more outdoor rabbit set-up ideas, and predator-proofing tips, please visit the Rabbit Welfare Association’s housing pages: https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-housing/outdoor-rabbit-housing
We do not adopt out rabbits to situations where they will be allowed to free-roam in the garden unsupervised. To be clear, the 60sq ft requirement is for a predator proof enclosure which the rabbits can access 24/7. The requirement cannot be met by allowing the rabbits free roam of the garden. Foxes and other predators can and will clear 6ft+ fencing/walls and this is not a risk we will place our rabbits under.
Outdoor housing checklist
Rabbits can live happily indoors as long as you are able to provide a large (remember the 60sq ft rule!) bunny-proof living space. Many humans allow their bunnies to free-roam their house, however please be aware that they may well chew wires, wallpaper, skirting boards, carpets, and other valuable human goods, so you’ll need to be prepared to bunny-proof everywhere if you choose this option. You’ll also still need to provide lots of enrichment, hay stations and hiding places for free roam indoor buns – please don’t expect rabbits to just fit into your living room with a small bed in the corner like a cat might! Please do expect bunny poops scattered everywhere and hay stuck to your socks forever!
As an alternative to free-roaming, designating a spare room as the “bunny room” is an excellent option and you can always allow them supervised free roaming time to expand their space – personally, this is our preference as it allows the rabbits the option of staying in their own rabbity space, or venturing out to spend time around their humans. Alternatively, puppy playpens can be used to create a safe area of a large room for your bunnies – just make sure the pen sides are high enough so your buns can’t jump out.
For more indoor rabbit set-up ideas, please check out the Rabbit Welfare Association’s housing pages: https://rabbitwelfare.co.uk/rabbit-housing/indoor-rabbit-housing
85% of a rabbit’s diet should be made up of hay and/or grass. Eating hay/grass requires the rabbit to chew in a side-to-side motion, which wears down the ever-growing teeth, preventing dental issues. Pellets and veg do not require this side-to-side chewing motion, and also don’t include as much of the long-strand fibre which is also essential for gut health. Hay/grass must therefore be the main part of a rabbit’s diet!
If your rabbit doesn’t eat much hay, try different brands and types – meadow, timothy, orchard, oat, ings, dried grass – there are many options and usually one will tempt your bun. It can also help to mix in fresh or dried forage or your rabbit’s pellets, and provide multiple hay feeding stations in their enclosure so it is everywhere they turn!
We recommend buying hay by the bale – this will save you money and the hay will be better quality than the small plastic wrapped packs you find in pet shops. Try local farm shops and horse food stores.
Green plants, herbs & forage
After hay, rabbits should be provided with a variety of green plants and herbs. The best greens are those that a rabbit would find in the wild, and you can pick a lot of these yourself in your garden/parks/woodlands etc. Supermarket greens are acceptable, but we highly recommend feeding wild plants as often as possible, and also including safe tree branches, bark, and roots as would be eaten in the wild.
The following links provide lists of safe wild plants and recommended greens/veg/herbs:
Edible Plants for Rabbits – Frances Harcourt Brown
Recommended veg & herbs – Rabbit Welfare Association
What to Feed Your Rabbits – Wood Green
Wild plants can also be fed dried, which is useful during the autumn/winter months. There are many great online stores for purchasing dried forage (see list at bottom of page).
Pellets should only form a small part of the diet and should be viewed as a supplement, rather than a main food. Healthy adult rabbits who consume sufficient hay and are fed a variety of safe greens/forage will not require any pellets at all. If you do feed pellets, feed a very small amount, or use them as treats! Too many pellets can lead to obesity and serious dental issues as the rabbits fill up on these, neglecting the all-important hay. Pellets containing grains and cereals should be avoided – grass/hay based pellets with plenty of long-grain fibre are best. Below are some of our favourites.
Recommended Rabbit Food Sites
Healthy Herby (mention us when purchasing and we’ll receive free hay!) – Hay and forage
timothyhay.co.uk – Hay
The Hay Experts – Hay, forage & pellets
Just4Rabbits – Hay & forage
Hay-and-Straw.co.uk – Hay
Haybox – Hay, forage and pellets
Nature’s Grub – forage in bulk!
Cheshire Pet Supplies – Hay bales (useful if local to Manchester!)
As well as sufficient space (at least 60 sq ft), rabbits need enrichment in their enclosure – hideys, tunnels, platforms, digging trays, hays/grasses to graze on, things to chew, etc, to allow them to display natural behaviours.